City Council Passes Plan For Parking Meters

Plan Will Allow Communities To Recommend Parking Meter Rates
The San Diego City Council Tuesday passed a plan that will allow community groups to recommend rates for parking meters, and possibly entice drivers to pay for curbside spaces more often.

The vote was 5-2 in favor of the plan, which sets a goal of having 85 percent of the metered spaces used by drivers. The current utilization rate is 37 percent, according to city staff.

Speakers noted that some blocks have free parking on one side of the street and metered parking on the other, with the no-cost side always full and the other empty of vehicles.

The plan envisions using high-tech meters with flexible pricing systems, so that an hour of street parking could range from 25 cents to $2.50, depending on the location and time of day.

City officials stressed several times that the goal of the plan is not to raise parking rates, which are now $1.25 for one hour at the 5,500 or so meters across the city. More than two-thirds of the meters are downtown, with the bulk of the remainder located north of downtown and in Hillcrest.

Eighty percent of San Diego's 5,000 meters are downtown, and a group of downtown residents and business owners have been working for eight years to figure out what to do about meters.

"We want to make it easier to use downtown," said Bill Keller, a downtown business owner and member of the Downtown Parking Management Group.

They have had a pilot program downtown with varying rates -- raising rates in the busier areas and lowering them in areas that don't see as much traffic. The idea is to get more people into the metered spaces and the goal is to have 85 percent of the spaces occupied at any given time.

"The city ends up getting as much revenue from a 50-cent-an-hour parking space that's used 100 percent of the time as they do from a buck and a quarter hour space that's used 20 to 25 percent," said Keller.

The Gaslamp Quarter, a busier area, could see the increased parking rates.

"There's already not enough parking," said Emily Perroto, who works downtown. "So if they went up, I think it would lead to bad blood."

Restaurant owner Nick Tomasello was concerned as well.

"I think that would definitely hinder people from coming downtown," he said. "It's very expensive to park downtown. There's very limited parking."

Community parking groups set policy at the grassroots level and can make recommendations to the mayor. The Uptown Community Group has disbanded, but is being resurrected.

"Every neighborhood is different, you want local control, not the bureaucracy setting those rates," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said.

The groups, mayor and City Council will also consider whether to extend the hours in which drivers will need to pay for curbside parking.

Meters are currently enforced Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with Sundays and holidays exempted. City officials will have the option of extending the hours until 11 p.m. and adding Sundays.

The city currently generates a gross of $7.4 million annually from parking meters, and the plan could gain nearly $1 million more.

Council members Sherri Lightner and Carl DeMaio cast the dissenting votes.

A spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders praised the City Council's action and said the mayor would take recommendations from individual parking districts.
The San Diego City Council
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